Whitney Houston was the golden girl of the music industry
Whitney Houston, who died Saturday, wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.
Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice was ravaged by drug use and her regal image was tarnished by erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died on the eve of the Grammy Awards she once reigned.Skip to next paragraph
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Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen said Houston was pronounced dead Saturday afternoon in her room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton. "There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent," Rosen said.
Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, said the cause of death was unknown.
Houston's death came on the night before music's biggest showcase, the Grammys. She will be remembered Sunday in a tribute by Jennifer Hudson, organizers said.
Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price. Singer Kenny Lattimore hosted the event, and said Houston sang the gospel classic "Jesus Loves Me" with Price, her voice registering softly, not with the same power it had at its height.
Lattimore said Houston was gregarious and was in a good mood, surrounded by friends and family, including daughter Bobbi Kristina.
"She just seemed like she was having a great night that night," said Lattimore, who said he was in shock over her death.
Aretha Franklin, her godmother, also said she was stunned.
"I just can't talk about it now," Franklin said in a short statement. "It's so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen."
"The morning of the Grammys, the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird," Sharpton said in a statement.
In a statement, Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said Houston "was one of the world's greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades."
At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful and peerless vocals rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.
Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like "The Bodyguard" and "Waiting to Exhale."
She had the perfect voice and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.
But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.